266. Editorial Note
President Nixon met with Henry Kissinger in the Oval Office of the White House at 10:51 a.m. on December 10, 1971, for another discussion of the crisis in South Asia. The conversation began with Nixon and Kissinger talking about the protest the Department of State was instructed to make concerning the strafing of United States planes on the ground in Pakistan by the Indian Air Force. Nixon wanted to make certain that the protest had been made. Kissinger again suggested that the Department did not promptly or effectively carry out White House instructions. He said: “I want to tell you what I have done, tentatively, subject to your approval. Theyʼve got this East Pakistan, theyʼve got the offer of the commander of the Pakistan forces in East Pakistan to get a cease-fire and so forth. They [the Department of State] were going to run to the Security Council and get that done. We donʼt want to be in a position where we push the Pakistanis over the cliff. So I told them to link the cease-fire in the east with the cease-fire in the west.” Kissinger said that the cease-fire in the east was “down the drain.” He added: “the major problem now is protect the west.” Nixon agreed: “Yeah.” Kissinger continued: “Iʼve got Vorontsov coming in at 11:30 and Iʼm going to tell him that what the Pakistanis did in the east was as a result of what we did. Which is true. Iʼm going to show him the Kennedy understanding. Iʼm going to hand him a very tough note to Brezhnev and say this is it now, letʼs settle the, letʼs get a cease-fire now. Thatʼs the best that can be done now. Theyʼll lose half of their country, but at least they preserve the other half.” Nixon agreed that “our desire is to save West Pakistan.”
Nixon asked for an assurance that the necessary steps were being taken to “keep those carriers [sic] moving.” Kissinger assured him that “everything is moving.” In addition to the carrier group, Kissinger reported that “four Jordanian planes have already moved to Pakistan, twenty-two more are coming. Weʼre talking to the Saudis, the Turks weʼve now found are willing to give five.”
Later in the conversation Nixon asked when Kissinger planned to meet with the Chinese. Kissinger replied that he was meeting with them that afternoon at 5:30. Nixon asked what would be discussed and Kissinger replied: “Iʼm going to tell them what forces weʼre moving.” Nixon said: “Could you say it would be very helpful if they could move some forces, or threaten to move some forces.” Kissinger said: “Absolutely.” Nixon added: “Theyʼve got to threaten or theyʼve got to move, one of the two. You know what I mean? Kissinger replied: “Yeah.” Nixon continued: “Threaten to move forces or move them, Henry, thatʼs what they must do now. Now, goddammit, weʼre playing our role and that will restrain India. And also tell them this will help [Page 742] us get the cease-fire.” He indicated that he did not want to reach an agreement with the Soviet Union that China would reject. Kissinger agreed and added: “If we stay strong, even if it comes out badly, weʼll have come out well with the Chinese, which is important.”
Casting about for other sources of support for Pakistan, Nixon asked whether France could be encouraged to sell planes to Pakistan. The conversation then turned to the impending talks between Nixon and French President Pompidou in the Azores on monetary issues.
Nixon said: “Coming back to this India–Pakistan thing, have we got anything else we can do?” Kissinger replied: “I think weʼre going to crack it now.” Nixon asked: “Well, the Indians will be warned by the Chinese, right?” Kissinger replied: “Well, Iʼll have to find out tonight.” Nixon said: “You do your best, Henry. This should have been done long ago. The Chinese have not warned the Indians. They havenʼt warned them that theyʼre going to come in. And thatʼs the point, theyʼve got to warn them& . All theyʼve got to do is move something. Move their, move a division. You know, move some trucks. Fly some planes. You know, some symbolic act. Weʼre not doing a goddamn thing, Henry, you know that. Weʼre just moving things around, arenʼt we?” Kissinger agreed: “Yeah.”
Nixon said: “These Indians are cowards, right?” Kissinger replied: “Right, but with Russian backing. You see the Russians have sent notes to Iran, Turkey, to a lot of countries threatening them. The Russians have played a miserable game.” In response to Nixonʼs question, Kissinger said the Russian threats were vague rather than specific. He felt that the Soviet Union would change course in light of Nixonʼs conversation with Matskevich.
Looking ahead, Nixon posed the question of whether the United States should recognize the emerging political reality in East Pakistan. “What do we do about that? Are we going to just say & Indian occupation or Bangladesh? Or what? Are we going to oppose Bangladesh recognition? Whatʼs our position? Is anybody involved on these things?” He added that what was lacking was a plan outlining “how we want it come out.” Kissinger responded: “After the Brezhnev letter came yesterday, we sent a copy of it to Yahya…. And now Yahya has come back with a proposal saying cease-fire, negotiations for mutual withdrawal, and negotiations to settle the political future&. And then what will happen on Bangladesh, Mr. President, is that whatever West Pakistan and these people work out we will accept. But we will not be in the fore, in the front.” Nixon asked: “Whatever West Pakistan works out with whom?” Kissinger replied: “The negotiations on East Pakistan.” Nixon said: “But India will not agree to negotiations on East Pakistan.” Kissinger replied: “Yeah, but the Russians have already agreed to it. So what will happen, letʼs be realistic, what will happen is that the representatives of East Pakistan will demand independence. [Page 743] And in practice I think that is what West Pakistan will then agree to. But then it wonʼt be us who have done it. This will solve the problem of do we recognize Bangladesh against the wishes of the Pakistan Government.” Nixon said: “We must never recognize Bangladesh & until West Pakistan gives us the go ahead.”
In concluding, Nixon said: “I want a program of aid to West Pakistan formulated immediately&. We cannot let them hang out there by themselves.” He observed that while he was constrained from sending military assistance to Pakistan, the United States could encourage others to do so. He could provide economic assistance recognizing that Pakistan could convert such assistance to military purposes. Nixon concurred with Kissingerʼs observation that “we have to continue to squeeze the Indians, even when this thing is settled.” Nixon instructed that economic assistance programmed for India be reprogrammed to help pay for war damage suffered by Pakistan. Nixon also angrily instructed that a concerted effort be made to publicize Indiaʼs role in the crisis: “Get a white paper out&. I want the Indians blamed for this, you know what I mean? We canʼt let these goddamn sanctimonious Indians get away with this&. Here they are raping and murdering. They talk about West Pakistan. These Indians are pretty vicious.” (National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, White House Tapes, Recording of conversation between Nixon and Kissinger, December 10, 1971, 10:51–11:12 a.m., Oval Office, Conversation No. 635–8) The editors transcribed the portions of the tape recording printed here specifically for this volume. A transcript of this conversation is published in Foreign Relations, 1969– 1976, volume E–7, Documents on South Asia, 1969–1972, Document 172.